Hi, my name is Allison and I’m a workaholic. I started working at age 15 and caught a real high off opening a company with my father. For my birthday that year, he got me business cards with my name and “Administrative Assistant” printed on them. If you think anyone in my sophomore class didn’t have one, you are dead wrong. My senior year of high school, I got out at 12:00pm every day for an internship that I was supposed to do for five hours a week. Instead, I did five hours a day and got paid for it.
I worked selling real estate during my college years. After graduation, I moved to Florida where I instantly found a job (and then another one…then another one). I busted my ass as an Office Manager for two years before moving back to New England. I did a couple stints as an unemployed 20something, but those were always short-lived. In my mid 20s, I spent some time working two jobs, which I continued doing until I went full-time with my business. The days of taking time off or working short 40 hour weeks disappeared, and my new schedule of seven day weeks, 365 days a year began. (Yes, I count answering emails for an hour or two on Christmas or Thanksgiving as a work day.)
The addiction is real. Being an entrepreneur put me on another level, and I’ve started to realize it’s not always healthy. I still don’t take full days off, but in the past eight months, I’ve been working on getting some balance. (I know a lot of people think that term is too lifestyle blog-ish, but I can’t think of a better one.) It’s impossible to be truly balanced, which I recognize. When I’m working crazy long days, I think, I should be spending more time with my family and friends. When I make plans with family or friends, I think, I shouldn’t. I have too much work to do. There is no way to do it all, unless I can figure out how to clone myself. (That’s something I think about more often than I should, as I know it’s not possible. But 50 years ago, no one would have thought that cell phones could be possible, so maybe…)
But less talk about clones, more talk about balance. Us workaholics (and anyone taking care of a ton of things, like kids, parents, school, health issues, etc.) will eventually burn out if we don’t take breaks. And a burnt out workaholic is no good to anyone. I am not only the best entrepreneur and makeup artist I can be when I feel balanced, but also the best daughter, sister and friend.
My quest for balance started after I had a mini-breakdown early last summer. Looking back, I think part of it was from the workload but also probably because of my stress level due to my father’s year-long battle with pancreatic cancer (he’s good now, thank God). It all hit me one day in mid-June when I felt particularly buried in work, and I thought, This has to stop. So I started doing these things, which have helped make me a workaholic on the road to recovery.
More Family & Friend Time. I know, I know–this one is a no-brainer. It’s not only my favorite thing to do but one of my two main goals when I opened my business (the other was/is to be cold as little as possible by snowbirding in the winter). I’ve historically been better at family time, maybe because I can plan ahead for a lot of it (birthdays, holidays, the annual family reunion) but have still missed out on some get-togethers over the years. Friend time can be tougher because I have a lot of them (I don’t know how!) and they are spread out across the country, plus everyone has different schedules. But I’ve made a solid effort to see my people as often as possible and continue to do so. I even do this new thing, which I never consistently did before: I try to meet a friend for lunch or a cocktail after a wedding job. (Not every wedding, but usually after one a week during wedding season.) My old way was to do a wedding job for three to five hours, go home, eat something, then do admin work for another eight or nine hours. Now I take a few hours to hang with a friend post-wedding to decompress. I live in one of the best summer towns in New England (fact) so it’s silly to pay rent here and not enjoy it with the people I love to be with.
Hitting The Snooze Button. I’ve never actually hit the snooze button because if I’ve set an alarm, there’s a damn reason I chose that wakeup time. But I do prioritize my sleep, because I am shitty at life when I’m tired. On the days when I don’t have a morning appointment, I let my body wake up when it wants to. I had a two week stretch over the summer when that time was 5:45am, but lately it’s around 7:00am. I have given myself permission to sleep in if that’s what my body needs. Sometimes I have a hard time falling asleep at night or a nightmare about being late to a wedding wakes me up at 2:00am and it takes forever to fall back asleep. On those mornings, I let myself stay in bed until 8:00am or 8:30am, ignoring the commands from my brain to Get up and work, lazy! The option to sleep in if I feel like it is one of the benefits of being an entrepreneur, but the choice to actually do so is part of my balancing act.
Cutting Out Early. One of the strongest parts of my addiction has been stupidly long work days. Two summers ago, I had a sickening schedule. I would wake up around 8:00am and immediately start working, stopping only for the occasional errand or to go for a run. I would end my work day around 12:00am or 1:00am, go to sleep and repeat. The following year, I decided that work schedule was ridiculous, so I started ending my day at 10:00pm or 11:00pm (but also started waking up earlier). Now I try to end my workday by 8:00pm, sometimes earlier. And I take a lot more breaks during the day. I even take quasi-half days at least once week. (That’s when I stop at 2:00pm or 3:00pm to meet a friend, get home four or five hours later, and only address time sensitive issues after.)
I Plead Not Guilty. I have a guilt thing. I used to be really hard on myself for staying in bed until 8:30am or watching two hours of Netflix in the middle of the day. I don’t do either one of those often, but until recently, I would scold myself for doing so. I would think, What are you doing, Allison? Look at your To Do List! But now, I give myself a break. I don’t shirk my responsibilities to watch “Shameless,” but if I’ve responded to all client calls, emails and any time sensitive issues and I feel like intensifying my crush on Lip Gallagher instead of entering receipts in Quickbooks, I do it. And if I start to feel guilty, I tell myself, You are allowed to take breaks without feeling bad about it. It actually makes me more focused and efficient when I get back to work. The guilty-conscience-for-no-reason thing was not doing me any favors. Although it’s not completely gone, I have quieted the voice considerably.
Taking Care of Number One. I saw a quote recently that resonated with me. It said “You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.” I have struggled with this philosophy before because it seems so self-centered. And it is, but not in a bad way. I’ve learned that I am no good to anyone when I’m overworked, overtired and not feeling well. So besides getting enough sleep, I try to take care of myself physically by eating well, working out, taking supplements, not drinking like a college kid and being on top of any health issues. I am super preventative with my health and very aware of any changes in how I look or feel. (I’ve caught four pre-cancerous moles in the last year. Booyah!) I do this in part for Future Allison–so she has a better shot at not being saddled with health issues by age 65–and partly for Present Allison. Present Allison does better makeup when she is healthy and feeling well. She’s more clearheaded and therefore better at client and team communication and admin tasks. She’s also more apt to drive an hour or two to visit a relative, help someone move or look over a friend’s resume when she doesn’t feel sick, tired or worried about a health issue. So although putting a focus on self-care (lifestyle blog term #2, if you’re keeping count) may seem selfish, I’ve found it actually provides me with the energy and clarity to be more giving when it comes to my personal life and more focused when it comes to my business. Yes, getting a dental cleaning or going for a run takes away time from work, but I’ve decided these things are essential for me. If being a sluggish, fatigued person with plaque-coated teeth and a constant cold is the price you pay for an empty inbox, then no thank you.
My business has changed me for the better and I can’t see myself doing anything else. I am always going to be a hard worker, because I honestly know no other way. But my family and friends are my heart. You know when you’re on a date and the guy asks “So, what do you like to do for fun?” (Ugh. Please don’t with that question.) I don’t have a list of hobbies to rattle off. My answer is “Hang out with my family and friends.” (Also, “Not date.”) It doesn’t matter if we see a movie, go out to lunch, or sit uncomfortably on the one loveseat that fit through my apartment door and talk for hours. The time I spend with the people I love is what keeps me going. I am passionate about my career but being a workaholic isn’t the best way to go through life. I will keep trying to balance things out so I can enjoy my life and be the most productive entrepreneur I can be. I welcome any advice from recovering workaholics.
Have a beautiful day 🙂